Learning from Poverty

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    I continue to weigh this subject with great interest. I fear I am often taken to mean something I do not mean.

    I bake my own bread. (Don’t worry, it’s good bread, not the peasant stuff.) I brew my own beer and mead, and I make liqueurs and herbal infusions at home. I publish out-of-print books as a hobby. I love to garden. Of course I personally cook nearly everything I eat, and I don’t remember the last time I consumed a pre-packaged meal.

    While I think very little of Karl Marx, one thing he got right was that the future would turn on the struggle between alienated and non-alienated labor. He did not realize, or perhaps did not consider, that for an increasing class of people, the workday would either (a) consist of non-alienated labor or (b) just be endured, for a relatively brief and not horribly unpleasant span, for the sake of non-alienated labor. Communism is what we do in our free time.Report

  2. That bread sounds delicious. I’m certainly sometimes guilty of misunderstanding the positions of others, for which, as always, apologies to all!Report

  3. Avatar Scott says:

    Why more of this silly romanticization? What can I learn from the poor about dignity and decorating? I can learn how for most of human existence life has been, to paraphrase Hobbs, “nasty, brutish, and short?” Or do you expect that I will want to give of my decadent Western ways and eat granola in my earth shoes?Report

  4. Avatar North says:

    The design work on the huts is remarkably uniform. Very pattern like and regular considering that it was, I assume, drawn rather than stamped on the surface.
    I’m 100% for people making stuff. Hands on is good for the brain and probably the spirit. But once we start talking about basing our economy on the idea that everyone should be making stuff with their hands that’s when I get off the way-back bus. Specialization has value and nostalgia has no place in economics.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Trying to be a little less tendetious than Scott above, I do want to say that the excerpt (and the gratitutious swipe at McMansions that preceded it) are what to me is a central exhibit in the tradeoff between
    1) stuff is expensive and labor is cheap
    2) labor is expensive and stuff is cheap.

    You go aroud some eastern cities (or say Lilek’s site) and see impressive hand-crafted artistry in the detail work of buildings from the late 19th earliest 20th century. My late grandmother’s old (I almost daresay peasant, but it was fishing village middle class) house in Nova Scotia had some really nice touches (in the places that it was not compeltely falling apart) that I would have loved to have been able to cut out whole and ship down to the states.

    But there is no way even a typical upper middle class professional couple that’s trying to keep their condo/townhouse under 600K would be able to afford today the man-hours required to contruct buidings this way – but they can afford quite readlily the pre-fabbed Granite countertops and Crown(sp?) molding.

    And not everyone is cut out to be an artist. And complaints of the conformity of American middle & upper-middle class go back to at least Sinclair Lewis if not earlier.Report

  6. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Again, I’ve got no thoughts on America or capitalism here, but I am currently trying to pick up carpentry, along with about 20 other things, and I’m learning very slowly, to put it nicely. Anyway, we have some friends who spend a few months each year in Indonesia selling something or other and buying a great amount of handmade furniture that they sell in Canada. As they explained it, the labor is cheap and there are young men who spend years learning how to carve very intricate designs and put together tables, chairs, beds, statues, and all sorts of things really. Anyway, the point is that the stuff they’ve brought back is unbelievable. Just incredible. It really does suggest manual intelligence, and its relation to cheap and devoted labor, because you’d have to carve all day for years to make this kind of stuff.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      @Rufus F., All the more reason for open free flowing trade so that people in North America can get their hands on some of that beautiful carved wood (I’m lusting for a piece or two just from your description) and so that the Indonesian wood carvers can get handsomely paid for their craft.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        @North, I don’t know the business aspect of it, but it doesn’t seem like they have a lot of trouble importing the stuff. They’ve got two stores full in Ontario and their house too. I also have no idea how they got started in the business. Judging from their house, it’s not a bad business if you can get it.Report